Opinion: U.S. border security at a standstill


Photo Courtesy Nick Kearney

The United States recently endured the longest partial government shutdown in its history, resulting in 800,000 federal workers either furloughed, or forced to work without pay for 35 days. The shutdown began on Dec. 21, until President Trump agreed to sign a funding measure to open the government on Jan. 25 for three weeks while negotiations continue as he continues to seek funding for a border wall. The showdown could culminate in another shutdown Feb. 15 if congress and the president don’t resolve the impasse.

Over the past year both houses of congress and the president have publicly announced the need to harden security on the southern border to stem the flow of illegal drugs, human trafficking and immigrants entering the country illegally.

Unfortunately, our elected leaders have failed to reach a solution. The primary sticking point is the additional $5.7 billion the president is requesting to replace or repair existing fencing and barriers, along with adding additional fencing where deemed appropriate on the southern border.

All previous administrations, as well as current Democratic leaders, Sen. Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have not only advocated for additional barriers, technology and manpower on the southern border, but have also voted for these measurers in the past. It appears the Democrats are placing politics above the safety of the American people.

Americans have grown weary and disappointed with the government’s inability to effectively legislate this issue. One such individual is Zoe Simmons, a freshman art and marketing major.

“I would really like to see better cooperation among the politicians on this issue because it is not about them, it is about us,” she said. “They are supposed to be representing us, and they are not doing that.”

The Department of Homeland Security and border security professionals endorse the use of physical barriers as a key part of the puzzle in securing the southern border. A survey was completed last April of 600 members of the Border Patrol Council. The results, published by the Washington Times, revealed that 89 percent of the boots-on-the-ground border agents favored adding additional physical barriers to the existing 654 miles of wall/fencing protecting the 1,950 mile southern border.

After consulting with border security professionals President Trump sought to add about 400 miles of additional fencing to harden the southern border.

Opponents of granting the president the additional $5.7 billion to harden and expand the physical barriers on the southern border argue that “walls are ineffective and expensive.”

American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin pointed out in 2017, Israel’s wall with the West Bank, Morocco’s wall with Algeria, India’s wall with Bangladesh, and Hungary’s wall with Serbia have reduced illegal crossings to near zero. This year, Rubin reports that France, Iraq, Lithuania, Estonia and Norway are putting up walls.

“It is simply counterfactual to suggest that walls won’t work, a willful subordination of facts to the politics of the day,” Rubin writes.

Speaker Pelosi has gone so far as to say publicly that walls, a key component of comprehensive border security she has supported in the past, are now somehow “immoral.” However, it is highly unlikely that she would advocate to remove the existing border wall separating her home state of California from Mexico.

President Trump recently made the argument for border barriers more gracefully, pointing out that wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their property not “because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside.”

Mckenna Bean, a senior sustainability major, grew up in San Diego and believes we should have better border security to protect both Americans and the immigrants.

“I think there is a lot of danger near the border and innocent people on both sides are being victimized,” she said. “I do see a lot of hurt at the southern border where families are being ripped apart, and that is very heartbreaking to me.”

The argument that adding additional physical barriers on the southern border would be too expensive is without merit. According to the Congressional Budget Office the $5.7 billion the president is requesting represents less than one half of 1 percent of the yearly national budget, or 2.7 percent of what the food stamp program alone costs every year.

The number of illegal immigrants arrested attempting to cross the southern border has increased this fiscal year. The New York Times reported in June of 2018, that the Department of Homeland Security advised that nearly 52,000 individuals were arrested in May attempting to breach the southern border.

This was the third consecutive month border patrol arrested 50,000 or more illegal immigrants trying to cross the border. Sadly, the number of children apprehended in May was 7,235, an increase from the 5,317 apprehended in April. Fiscal year 2018 saw 340,000 immigrants arrested by border patrol, an increase from previous years. The increase is attributed to the influx of migrants trying to enter the country from Central America.

Whether or not we are having a crisis at the southern border is debatable. However, the above number of monthly arrests should give Americans pause because it is difficult to ascertain the number of illegal immigrants who are getting into the country every month.

Despite the efforts of Border Patrol people are routinely crossing the border into the country because Border Patrol does not have the manpower or the technology to monitor the entire length of the border. Also, a large percentage of legal immigrants overstay their visas and disappear into the landscape.

Answers for how much illegal immigrants cost the American tax payers covers a broad range. Estimates range from $100 billion to $338 billion annually. A 2017 cost analysis by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) puts the figure of illegal immigration costs to U.S. taxpayers at $155 billion. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, however, the cost is much higher: $338 billion annually.

Once in the country illegal immigrants receive social services, food assistance, education and Medicad. Shockingly, it costs U.S. taxpayers $3 million per day to incarcerate illegal immigrants who comprise 30 percent of all federal prison inmates.

Forbes magazine’s Chris Conover ran the numbers in November and determined that at least $18.5 billion of taxpayer money is spent on health care for illegal immigrants each year.

Dollar costs are not the only price Americans pay for the government’s lack of action on border security and immigration control; crimes committed by illegal immigrants is a serious problem.

Figures provided by Customs and Border Patrol as of Aug. 31, one month before the end of FY 2018, include convictions of illegal immigrants for:

Assault, battery, domestic violence – 506
Burglary, robbery, larceny, theft, fraud – 322
Driving under the influence – 1,062
Homicide, manslaughter – 3
Illegal drug possession, trafficking – 816
Illegal entry, re-entry – 3,637
Illegal weapons possession – 98
Sexual offenses – 78
Other offenses – 1,298

Although these numbers are lower than those for FY 2016 the fact that nearly 8,000 people in the U.S. this year were direct victims of illegal immigrants is alarming.

In addition, the humanitarian crisis is real for immigrants making the perilous journey from Central America. The true victims are women and children who risk being kidnapped, raped and abused by criminal elements.

Amnesty International reports that one in three women are sexually abused while making the 2,000-mile journey from Central America. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission estimates that criminal gangs earn $50 million a year by human trafficking of vulnerable women and children.

Ronniel Elliot, a freshman business major, believes it is time to help those making the journey looking for a better life.
“The drug and human trafficking is a problem and it needs to stop,” he said. “But we also need to help those who are being victimized in making the journey seeking a better life for their families.”

In the event congress cannot break the stalemate on this issue by Feb 15 the president has the authority to declare a state of national emergency and proceed with border wall funding. Congress has placed no barriers on presidential prerogatives to declare such states of emergency. Other presidents have used similar authority.

Under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, Congress can override such actions with a two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and Senate. However, in the 43 years of this law’s existence, no congress has ever voted to terminate a declared state of emergency, and no court has countermanded any such presidential decree.

Hopefully, the Congress will put politics aside, reach a consensus, and solve the issue of border security for the American people, and those seeking to become Americans. The Congress must also initiate comprehensive immigration reform to provide an immigration process that actually serves the interests of the U.S., and those seeking our great land of opportunity.

Dan O’Bryan, SNC’s Assistant Provost, believes the ideal change to our immigration process needs to be less emotional, and more direct and professional in approaching the complex issue of border security.

“Unfortunately, that is just the opposite of what is going on right now,” he said.

SNC senior Nick Kearney is an editor on the Eagle’s Eye staff.